Summer And The Sea
Looking at the clear night sky, I couldn’t help but marvel at how fast time flies. Wasn’t it just winter yesterday? Now, the smell of summer is here and together with it are beautiful memories of beaches and fine white sand.
I was a beach baby. I grew up in a place where part of the Pacific Ocean was just a 10-minute walk away. Weekends would be spent frolicking there. I didn’t learn to swim back home, but I remember being tossed into the water many times over as a child because I so loved it. Once, when the tide was low, I ventured into the mangroves by myself to check what was on the edge of the beach’s rocky part. I was trying to mentally calculate the depth of the blue waters when it suddenly rained hard and the waters rose so fast. I didn’t know how to swim, but must go back to dry land as quickly as possible. The water was already waist-deep and the current strong when I realized I was in the danger of being swallowed by the sea without any witness. I waded to the shore as fast as I could, oblivious to the sharp rocks that were cutting my skin. It was only when I plopped down the beach that I felt the sting of my freshly-cut wounds. Then and there, I vowed to learn to swim properly, even if I had to do it in a chlorine-filled swimming pool.
My first major heartbreak saw me drowning my sorrows in the incessant howling of the angry waves. After alternately crying my eyes to oblivion and swimming till my muscles numbed, calm gradually took over. My pain seemed to anchor itself to the raging sea that when the waters stilled, it also ceased to exist.
The powerful lure of the sea shaped my love affair with Boracay, my annual refuge. For so many years, I would make it a point to visit Boracay to recharge. There, I would be a different person – happier, more relaxed and therefore, creative. I composed some of my best poems plopped down on its powdery white sand, facing the sunset. I wrote one of my most candid private essays while lounging on a hammock one afternoon.
When I finally learned how to swim, it was very liberating that it almost felt like learning how to breathe properly for the first time. Wait, I did not only learn to swim. I also joined swimming competitions. Not the major kind. But whenever I would garner a significant place, it would please me no end.
I am not scared of the vast and capricious sea. I love the waves as much as the water that splashes all over me whenever it decides to be furious. During one of the re-trainings of our office’s Search and Rescue Team of which I was a member, we were deployed to Fortune Island in Batangas to test if our rubber boats were still intact. I was probably the only one in my group who thought it fun that the rubber boat we were in almost capsized in the middle of the sea. We were wearing life-jackets but we couldn’t see any land mass, so had the worst happened, we would have been forced to swim to god-knows-where. Fortunately, we were able to repair the breakage and managed to go back to the island whole.
My love for the sea is so intense that just thinking about summer makes me want to hie-off to the nearest beach. Perhaps one of the more interesting adventures I’ve had was skinny-dipping in Bauang, La Union when I was 24. Having grown up beside the sea, swimming naked was not new to me. I probably had done it several times when I was small. But doing it publicly at 24 was something else. Looking back, I was probably brave because it was already dark and Villa Estrella, where I was billeted, was about 50 meters away. I was with my cousin Ariel at that time. We were walking along the shore, enjoying the music emanating from the open bars and restaurants when I felt this sudden urge to run into the water. Breaking into half-sprint, I tried to gain a considerable physical distance from him, stopped when I thought I was already safely covered by the shadows of the night, took off all my clothes, and ran into the open sea. When Ariel finally caught up with my mound of clothes, I was already in seventh heaven, so to speak.
Thinking about all these now makes me smile. They happened in another lifetime, in another world, when I was carefree. Perhaps someday I’ll go back to that world again. Then I shall be free.